Ankara considering opportunities to start talks with Syria: Hurriyet

Ankara considering opportunities to start talks with Syria: Hurriyet
A Turkish military position is pictured near the Syrian border, west of the village of Jindayris, in the countryside of Afrin. (File/AFP)
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Updated 07 April 2022

Ankara considering opportunities to start talks with Syria: Hurriyet

Ankara considering opportunities to start talks with Syria: Hurriyet
  • New report claims that bilateral discussions will take place over returning Syrian refugees living in Turkey
  • Ankara, Damascus have maintained low-level contact in recent years through their intelligence agencies

ANKARA: The Turkish government is mulling over opportunities to establish a dialogue channel with the Syrian government, the pro-government Hurriyet newspaper has reported.

Using anonymous sources, the Turkish daily said: “The balanced policy recently followed by Turkey and the role that Ankara has played in recent months, especially in resolving the war in Ukraine, have made the current period suitable for resolving the Syrian crisis.”

According to the report, the bilateral discussions will focus on three key issues: Protection of the unitary structure of the Syrian state against the activities of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), safeguarding the territorial integrity of Syria and allowing the safe return of about half of the Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey.

There has been no comment yet on the Hurriyet report from either Damascus or Ankara.

Francesco Siccardi, a senior program manager at Carnegie Europe, told Arab News that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seizing a political opportunity with a potential move of rapprochement with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“After presenting himself as the mediator between Russia and Ukraine, he could portray himself as a benevolent leader also in the Syrian scenario. The fact that both initiatives could bear no fruit is secondary to the perception of these posturing that will help him lift his image both at home and abroad,” he said.

The improvement of diplomatic ties with Damascus could also help Ankara reduce the political and economic burden of hosting 3.7 million refugees in Turkey amid skyrocketing inflation and decreasing purchasing power. The economic problems crippling the country are often blamed on the presence of an uncontrolled number of refugees.

According to Siccardi, this initiative could produce excellent gains for Erdogan if a portion of the Syrian refugees currently in Turkey are allowed to return to Syria.

Hurriyet also claimed that Assad’s visit to the UAE last month was seen in Ankara as a show of his willingness to take new initiatives and rally new support as he hopes to stabilize the country.

In the meantime, the normalization of ties between Turkey and Egypt is also on the horizon, with the appointment of a Turkish ambassador in Cairo on Wednesday after nearly nine years.

Experts note that Turkey’s ongoing normalization efforts with the Middle Eastern and Gulf countries will inevitably require resuming relations with Syria.

Samuel Ramani, an associate fellow at the London-based Royal United Services Institute, said Turkey regards itself as an increasingly important actor in the crisis diplomacy sphere.

“Turkey has acted as a dialogue facilitator and mediator between Russia and Ukraine, and is now trying to channel that experience to Syria. Assad’s recent visit to the UAE underscores his growing normalization with Arab countries, and despite Turkey’s antipathy toward him, Ankara realizes that Assad is Syria’s only leadership option,” he told Arab News.

According to Ramani, given the fact that Turkey is trying to ease tensions with regional powers, such as the UAE and Egypt, removing Syria as a source of tension serves that agenda.

Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria, Turkey conducted multiple military operations in Syria’s northern part in a bid to fight back against Syrian Kurdish militants that it associates with the PKK.

According to the 1998 Adana memorandum between Syria and Turkey, both parties are required to take necessary measures to remove PKK fighters from the Syria border.

Ankara has deployed thousands of troops in Syria and set up dozens of military outposts and bases there, which Damascus considers a violation of its sovereignty.

The last meeting between Turkey, Russia and Iran under the Astana process was held in December. How Turkey’s potential disagreements with Russia over its pro-Ukrainian neutrality policy will affect dynamics in Syria remain to be seen.

According to Ramani, Turkey has tried to compartmentalize its disagreements with Russia over Ukraine in its engagement with Moscow in Syria.

“Patrols between Russia and Turkey have continued in northern Syria, even as Russian tanks brandish the Z symbol of support for the war which Turkey opposes. Presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin cited Turkey’s ability to engage with Russia in theaters, such as Syria, while disagreeing with its conduct in Ukraine as a model for Western countries to follow,” he said.

As Turkey has not joined Western sanctions against Russia, Ramani does not expect that Moscow will have any objections to dialogue with Ankara in Syria.

“It will welcome talks between Turkey and Assad too,” he said.

For Siccardi, Turkey has much to lose in Syria and a change of the status quo in Idlib could have catastrophic consequences for Ankara.

“More than 3 million civilians have taken refuge there. An Assad regime’s offensive — backed by Moscow — could lead to many people crossing into Turkey, where almost 4 million Syrians have already taken shelter. This would be incredibly damaging for Erdogan, who is working for the safe return home of the better part of the Syrians currently living in Turkey. To prevent this outcome, Turkey will continue to be very careful and protective of its relationship with Moscow.”

Last year, Erdogan raised the specter of a new Turkish military campaign against Kurdish forces in northern Syria. For the moment, such an offensive is not on the domestic agenda.

“But, with an eye on the country’s parliamentary and presidential elections in 2023, any new plan for military operation in Syria will help Erdogan connect with his nationalistic constituencies and drum up support,” Aydin Sezer, an expert on Turkey-Russia relations, told Arab News.

“ Last year, Russia did not give Turkey the green light to any plan of a military offensive. But, considering current balances between Russia and the US over the Ukrainian conflict, Russia may push for a military offensive in Syria against Kurdish militants just to draw the US forces into a new turmoil,” he added.

According to Sezer, if the rapprochement between Ankara and Damascus bears fruit before the elections, the repatriation of refugees may take place with some political offsets.

“Damascus can ask Ankara to take back fighters of the Syrian National Army who mostly have Turkish citizenship, and offer its help for the repatriation of Syrian refugees,” he said, adding: “If Turkey takes coordinated steps with the UAE in Syria, it should also align its strategies with Russia.”

Ankara has, in the last four years, maintained low-level contact with Damascus through intelligence agencies.

But in 2019, Erdogan asserted that he would never talk to Assad, “who is responsible for the death of more than 1 million Syrians.”


Tunisia’s defense minister visits soldiers wounded in Mount Salloum clashes

Tunisia’s defense minister visits soldiers wounded in Mount Salloum clashes
Updated 16 August 2022

Tunisia’s defense minister visits soldiers wounded in Mount Salloum clashes

Tunisia’s defense minister visits soldiers wounded in Mount Salloum clashes
  • 2 soldiers were wounded in last Friday’s clashes between army units and terrorists

DUBAI: Tunisia’s minister of defense, Imed Memmiche, visited two soldiers who were wounded in last Friday’s clashes between army units and terrorists in Mount Salloum in Kasserine. 
 
Memmiche went to the Tunis military hospital on Monday to commend the men for their ‘patriotism and sense of duty’, according to the Ministry of Defense’s statement released on state news agency TAP.


UAE’s Dar Al Ber Society donates over $56m on global, local aid projects in 20222

UAE’s Dar Al Ber Society donates over $56m on global, local aid projects in 20222
Updated 16 August 2022

UAE’s Dar Al Ber Society donates over $56m on global, local aid projects in 20222

UAE’s Dar Al Ber Society donates over $56m on global, local aid projects in 20222
  • The non-profit organization has donated to 22,517 projects so far this year

Dar Al Ber Society has spent over $56 million during the first half of 2022 on charitable and sustainable development projects that have benefitted 2.9 million people worldwide and in the UAE, the Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported on Monday. 

The non-profit organization has donated to 22,517 projects so far this year, according to WAM. 

More than $13.6 million were donated to a total of 8,901 projects in the first quarter of this year, while $14,128,257 were directed to 13,616 projects in the second quarter, the CEO and Managing Director of Dar Al Ber SocietyMuhammad Suhail Al-Muhairi said. 

Some of these humanitarian projects have been completed while others are underway, he added. 

The Dar Al Ber Society helped build 2,144 mosques – 904 in the first quarter and 1,240 in the second quarter. 

A total of 8,121 water-saving projects were also built with the help of the donations, Al-Muhairi said.

The organization helped set up 4,929 projects for families, as well as launch 5,285 medical projects, according to WAM. 

Dar Al Ber also implemented its seasonal projects in 37 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe, in cooperation with 32 of its partners in the respective countries.

Represented by the Department of Zakat in the Projects and Zakat Sector, Dar Al Ber Society donated more than $11.6 million in local aid to 346,541 beneficiaries.


Tunisia’s Foreign Minister meets chargée d'affaires at US Embassy in Tunis

Tunisia’s Foreign Minister meets chargée d'affaires at US Embassy in Tunis
Updated 16 August 2022

Tunisia’s Foreign Minister meets chargée d'affaires at US Embassy in Tunis

Tunisia’s Foreign Minister meets chargée d'affaires at US Embassy in Tunis
  • The meeting represented “positive and constructive dialogue that reflects the strength of bilateral relations”

DUBAI: Tunisia’s foreign minister discussed ways to rectify the democratic process in the country during a meeting with the chargée d'affaires at the US Embassy in Tunis on Monday. 
Othman Jerandi, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Migration and Tunisians Abroad, met with Natasha Franceschi, chargée d'affaires at the US Embassy, to step up consultations between the two countries, Tunisia’s state news agency TAP reported. 
The meeting represented “positive and constructive dialogue that reflects the strength of bilateral relations,” the Foreign Affairs Department said in a statement.
Upcoming bilateral events, such as the Joint Military Commission, were also discussed at the meeting, according to the same statement.
During the meeting, Jerandi welcomed the ties between the two countries, while Franceschi stressed the US’ keenness to develop partnerships with Tunisia in all sectors.
Franceschi also presented America’s initiative to host the US-Africa Leaders Summit scheduled for Dec. 13-15 in Washington.


Jordan police bust crystal meth lab in Amman, arrest three

Jordan police bust crystal meth lab in Amman, arrest three
Updated 16 August 2022

Jordan police bust crystal meth lab in Amman, arrest three

Jordan police bust crystal meth lab in Amman, arrest three
  • Similar police operations were also undertaken in Zarqa, northeast of Amman

DUBAI: Three people were arrested after Jordanian police on Monday raided a house in East Amman that was being used as a crystal meth laboratory.

The raid was carried out after agents of the anti-narcotics department received a tip off.

The officers did not find the suspect in his home, but discovered and subsequently seized chemicals used for manufacturing methamphetamine.

The man was arrested later during a follow-up operation, where he also said he had an accomplice who worked with him to produce and sell the narcotics.

In a similar effort in Jordan’s campaign to crack down on the illegal drug trade, police raided a chalet west of Al-Balqa and arrested a man found in possession of marijuana and as well as a firearm on suspicion after he tried to flee.

Similar police operations were also undertaken in Zarqa, northeast of Amman, where suspects have been arrested while in possession of illegal drugs and narcotics.


EU ‘studying’ Iran response on restarting nuclear deal

EU ‘studying’ Iran response on restarting nuclear deal
Updated 16 August 2022

EU ‘studying’ Iran response on restarting nuclear deal

EU ‘studying’ Iran response on restarting nuclear deal
  • No details offered on the substance of Iran’s response
  • But Tehran suggested it still would not take the EU-mediated proposal

BRUSSELS/DUBAI: The EU said Tuesday it was “studying” Iran’s reply to a proposed draft agreement aimed at reviving a 2015 accord designed to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.

A spokesperson for EU diplomacy chief Josep Borrell — who coordinated talks to bring Iran and the US back into the deal — said the Iranian response was received late Monday.

“We are studying it and are consulting with the other JCPOA participants and the US on the way ahead,” the spokesperson said, referring to the formal title of the nuclear pact.

Iran earlier said it submitted a “written response” to what has been described as a final roadmap to restore its tattered nuclear deal with world powers.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency offered no details on the substance of it response, but suggested that Tehran still wouldn’t take the European Union-mediated proposal, despite warnings there would be no more negotiations.

“The differences are on three issues, in which the United States has expressed its verbal flexibility in two cases, but it should be included in the text,” the IRNA report said. “The third issue is related to guaranteeing the continuation of (the deal), which depends on the realism of the United States.”

Tehran under hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi has repeatedly tried to blame Washington for the delay in reaching an accord. Monday was reported to have been a deadline for their response.

From Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the US would share its own response to the EU.

“We do agree, however, with (the EU’s) fundamental point, and that is that what could be negotiated has been negotiated,” Price said.

He added that Iran had been making “unacceptable demands” going beyond the text of the 2015 nuclear deal, which saw Iran drastically limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

“If Iran wants these sanctions lifted, they will need to alter their underlying conduct,” Price said. “They will need to change the dangerous activities that gave rise to these sanctions in the first place.”